It was announced today that Ottawa's Tommy Wingels will not face further league discipline for his elbow to the head of Scott Wilson late in Game 5.
Well, Tommy Wingels probably shouldn’t be playing in Game 6 pic.twitter.com/qUODXAx5rX— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 21, 2017
A lot of Pens fans are angry but for some reason I just can't be outraged. NHL justice in the form of supplemental discipline is just too unpredictable and uncontrollable to get invested in.
The main reasons why it's tough to work up the anger:
- Wilson isn't hurt, per Mike Sullivan today after a very optional practice. That's great since Wilson is getting the chance of a career to play on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. While it's obviously a temporary "let's catch lightning in a bottle" type of move to energize the stars with a "north-south element" as Sullivan said yesterday, it's still a great opportunity for Wilson to show that he's useful up the lineup as well as in the 4th line role he's been mostly type-cast in up to this point of his NHL career. It's never a great time to take a cheap shot and get concussed, but it would have been even more cruel if it happened now to Wilson. Luckily, that apparently has been avoided.
- For better or worse, the "no harm, no suspension" mentality is one of the more consistent elements of NHL discipline, so it's not a big surprise there's no suspension on this hit.
- Wingels is a 4th line scrub, might even be a healthy scratch next game to get a guy like Matt Dzingel back in the lineup, so it's not as if he really will have any major impact on the game anyways. If this were a guy like Dion Phaneuf or Mark Stone putting this cheap shot out there, my dander for a suspension is probably higher. Not to say Wingels deserves a pass, but meh
- Wingels also isn't a really physical or dirty player. He's listed as 6'0, 200 pounds (probably both generous) and only had 64 hits in 36 regular season games. He's never been suspended and doesn't really have a reputation. That's no excuse for the hit but in the big context, this isn't a guy like Tom Sestito sending a message late.
NHL justice and refereeing in general just is what it is. They miss stuff both teams do. It sucks they don't catch it all, especially since Pittsburgh's power play is heating up (3 for 3 yesterday, 5 PPG in the last 3 games) and Ottawa is mired in an 0-for-29 slump. The more calls made, the more favor for the Pens, so seeing the refs miss too many men calls or late hits is more irritating than a non-suspension on a 4 h line player that didn't cause an injury anyways.
It's never a great message though when the league doesn't crack down on a bad hit late in a blowout game. A similar (and possibly more vicious, calculated attack) was assessed a 1 game suspension back in Round 1 when Columbus' Matt Calvert broke his stick on Tom Kuhnhackl for no reason late in a big loss. It's unfortunate the NHL didn't stay consistent in a similar play, but that's the NHL for you.